Tag Archives: Reviews

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review

When Marie-Claire of SO Awesome reached out to us about trying out a few of her wallet card sets, Jax was so excited! He’s been enjoying their free iOS wallet app for some time, and immediately recognized their colorful, modern style.

My love of all things Montessori is well known, but what you may not know is that I am a graphic designer and have a BA in studio art. Combine beautiful art with Montessori-inspired educational materials and I’m in heaven! SO Awesome teams up with talented illustrators to create their card sets, so each one is a treasure.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & GiveawayMy Wallet Card Set

If you come over to our house for a playdate, one of the first things Jax will ask you to play is “store”. We have a beautiful wooden store set, and Jax is finally old enough to have play money. This wallet play set is a perfect addition to our role playing and pretend play.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway

The wallet comes with play money, membership and bank cards – even a license! (To see what is included, click here.) At the moment, we are playing with this at home, but how great would it be to toss in your bag to bring along for a toddler to take apart – instead of YOUR wallet?

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway     Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway

The cards all have reverse sides to explore and realistic details. If I could add anything, it would be a personalized license with Jax’s name and photo. But perhaps that would be a fun DIY project for us to do together.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & GiveawayAlphabet Card Set

Jax was really drawn to the colorful set of alphabet cards. One side features gorgeous illustrations, the other has a large lowercase letter, the word that was illustrated and pictures of other words that begin with the letter.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway     Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway

These cards would be great on a stroller or card seat for younger toddlers. The removable ring is an easy way to store the cards together and bring them on the go without losing any. (But if you do, they offer single replacement cards!)

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway
We have been pairing the cards with out Montessori movable alphabet to make a fun matching game. I put one of every letter in a bowl and Jax matches them up with the correct card.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway     Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway     Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway

I asked Jax which card was his favorite. He said he liked them all, but P for Playground was his favorite!

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & GiveawayNumber Card Set

The numbers card set features whimsical illustrations depicting quantity on one side and the number and corresponding Montessori beads on the other. The title card has a picture of the Montessori bead stair. Another card features the different base ten quantities in the golden bead materials.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway      Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway     Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway

I’ve been working on DIY Montessori bead materials as a long-term project, so these cards fit in so well with our works! Click here to learn how I made my bead set and grab my free printables.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & GiveawayJax has always enjoys how colorful the bead stair is, so he was drawn to the small tray I set up with the number cards 0 – 9.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway      Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway

I made another small tray with the 1, 10, 100 and 1,000 cards to reinforce the golden bead materials he’s begun using. It is a quick activity, but it is always good to match physical objects to pictures and writing.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & GiveawaySO Awesome provides a handful of free printable resources and suggested activities as companions to their card sets. You can check them out here.

For free shipping on your next order from SO Awesome’s online store, use code imagineourlife.

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway


SO Awesome has generously offered a $45 store credit to the winner of this random giveaway. To enter, visit SO Awesome, then leave a comment here letting us know what your favorite product is. Then use the Rafflecopter widget below to let us know you’ve commented (email address or Facebook required). There are bonus entries available to anyone who enters. The lucky winner will be randomly chosen on Wednesday, September 10th.

Congrats to the winner, Andrea, L.!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About SO Awesome

soawesome_logojpgSO Awesome offers gorgeous, educational, non-toxic, extremely durable card sets designed for how kids play and work. Montessori-inspired. Made in the USA. Their cards are perfect to engage children in carseats, strollers, shopping carts, and long airplane rides.

Graphic Designer and mother Marie-Claire Camp created the durable, non-toxic card sets for her twin boys. Using the crowdsource-funding site Kickstarter, Marie-Claire produced five sets of cards and an companion iOS app.

Visit SO Awesome on: So Awesome WebsiteFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

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Thanks for entering, and good luck!

Montessori-Inspired Wallet Cards Review & Giveaway

We received these products in exchange for our honest review.
All opinions are our own, I promise! Have something for use to review? Contact me!

Minted for the Holidays

It’s hard to believe that December is almost a week old! Have you finished your holiday cards? Me neither! Minted to the rescue!

Throughout the years I’ve gone in many directions with our holiday cards: inexpensive photo cards, handmade cards and even a holiday email. It is so rare to get real, physical mail nowadays. December becomes extra special as your mailbox fills with cards, photos and letters. So when deciding what to send out this year, I thought about what I like to receive. Photos top my list, as do the special handmade ornaments that often decorate the cards sent by my aunt. My plan is to decorate simple felt Christmas tree ornaments to send along with a photo card. (I will be sharing my template with you in an upcoming post!)


Minted Holiday Cards

I’ve used an number of online photo services and paperies over the years. Minted is an “online stationery store powered by a global community of designers.” It falls in a higher price point than I’m used to, but the quality certainly shows. Last year I splurged on high-quality ornament photo cards, and it’s hard to imagine going back to the shiny drug store style cards.

Minted’s website is beautiful, and the biggest problem (aside from price) is there are too many lovely designs to choose from!

I love all things chalkboard, so this design caught my eye right away. I also like how the photo is separate from the design, so family could cut it off and frame it later.

I haven’t taken our family picture yet – I need to get on that a.s.a.p.! If you have a really great photograph, why not make it the star of your card? This design adds a watercolor wash that gives a dreamy feel.

Do you love Instagram as much as I do? I’m considering featuring a look back at my year of photos. This design would be perfect for that! (Want to go all out? Try the Insta-Book!)

Have you recently moved? I love this design! Choose from the east coast, midwest, or west coast, then mark your hometown with a star!

Last year I went with an ornament photo card. These are great because they can be saved and hung on the tree year after year. This snowflake is gorgeous!

All of Minted’s cards are highly customizable. Change the text color and font. Move elements around. Crop and style your photos. For added fees you can add on card backers, convert your flat card to a folded greeting, or included fancy envelopes and address labels.


Which design would you choose?

This is a sponsored post. Minted invited me to try their service in exchange for store credit. I only post my honest opinions in my reviews, and I’d love to hear yours. Want more Minted? Visit them on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

When I switched to Montessori-style homeschool for Jax at the beginning of the summer, Jax’s aunt and uncle kindly offered to purchase some educational supplies for him. They chose some items off his wishlist, and chose some others themselves.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables  Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

One educational toy they sent was Learning Resources Super Sorting Pie. This little fruit pie has become such a favorite for Jax that we just gave one as a gift at a three-year-old’s birthday party! I keep it in our homeschool classroom to keep it separate from our play toys. He is free to take it out and “play” with it along with the school activity trays I set up each week.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

The sorting pie comes with an assortment of little fruits – two color variations of each shape of fruit. The inside is divided into 5ths, and you can pull the dividers out and change between a variety of activity cards to encourage your little one to sort. The set also comes with two plastic tongs to help work on your child’s pincher grip. Jax only uses these about 50% of the time that he plays with the set, but I’ve already seen a huge improvement when he does.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

Recently, I wanted to start doing some work with patterning. I didn’t want to have to buy new supplies, so the little fruits in our sorting pie seemed perfect. I used Adobe Illustrator to draw each of the fruits, then laid them out into pattern strips of varying difficulty.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

I am sharing these printables with you for free! Here is the pattern printable. If you don’t have the Learning Resources Super Sorting Pie, I have added a sheet with fruits you can print and cut out.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

I recommend laminating everything. I have this laminator and love it! (These are affiliate links, btw. I get a tiny bit of Amazon credit if you purchase it, at no cost to you!)

As seen on our Montessori shelves.

As seen on our Montessori shelves.

Jax was super excited to see this tray, and was barely able to wait for me to finish prepping everything! We worked our way through all the patterns, starting with the easiest.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

I though he’d struggle with the ones that didn’t have a full pattern repeat shown (ie: 1, ?, 3, ?, 2, ?), but he surprised me and had no trouble.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

When we got to the two strips that were fully filled in, I extended them with a blank strip. He actually had the hardest time with the really long patterns.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

I’ve also included a blank sheet of patterning squares so you or your child can set up your own custom patterns. I asked Jax to make some patterns, but he just fills the squares randomly at this point. I took a turn and made some patterns for him to complete.

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

This activity was such a favorite that Jax asked to repeat it again before bedtime!

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

Want to pin it? He’s a Pinterest-ready picture! Find me here on Pinterest

Fruit Sorting & Patterning with Free Printables

Happy Monday! Please be sure to take a look at all the great Montessori and homeschool ideas on the Montessori Monday linkup!

Montessori Monday

Toddler App Review – Gappy’s First Words

Toddler App Review - Gappy's First Words

It was perfect timing when we received a copy of Spinlight’s new phonics app Gappy’s First Words. I had just decided to start using Montessori methods full time for Jax’s homeschooling, and was switching from memorizing the alphabet to teaching letter sounds and empowering him to read and spell on his own. (Should I start blogging about homeschooling again? Stop by our Facebook page and let me know!)

Toddler App Review - Gappy's First Words

I handed this app over to Jax without any presentation to him, and he dove right in. He loves letters, so he first clicked on the “ABC” button. There you’ll find an alphabet page where you can listen to either the letter names or their sounds. Perfect, as I’m now using letter sounds. This is just a free play area of the app.

Toddler App Review - Gappy's First Words

Next, Jax clicked on Gappy’s silhouette and entered the game. I let him choose his level, and of course he wanted to do the highest level – 4. In level four, you aren’t given any letters in the three-letter CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. We’ve actually been working on our Montessori pink level CVC words for the past two weeks, but hadn’t started when we first tried Gappy. It was a nice way for Jax to get a feel for sounding out a word and writing it based on each letter sound he hears. I played with him, and separated the sounds out for him.

Two weeks later, Jax can reliably get starting and ending sounds himself with our encouragement, but still needs us to slow down the words for that middle vowel. Gappy’s First Words ties in great with our Montessori language lessons,. I’m happy to let my son “play a game” that is actually helping him learn to read and write at age three!

Toddler App Review - Gappy's First Words

There is a reward system built into the game. You earn house parts so you can design Gappy’s house. Every 10 words you complete, you unlock another house item. This hasn’t been a huge motivator for Jax. But he loves letters and finds the spelling to be fun in itself.

We have an original iPad 1 and have had no technical problems with Gappy. A good thing, as our iPad isn’t always able to handle new apps. Thank you Spinlight for introducing us to Gappy’s First Words!

Wool Blend Felt vs Polyester Felt

I’m almost done the city quiet book page that I’ve been creating with my scraps of recycled polyester felt. But for my next quiet book page, I’ll be using beautiful wool blend felt provided by our new sponsor, American Felt and Craft (more on that here.) I’ve never worked with it before, and I’m really excited to try!

I thought it might be nice to compare the wool blend to some craft store felt made from recycled plastic bottles. This is the kind of felt I have used up until this point.

The felts are about the same thickness, but the wool blend is denser.

When you feel the two felts, they are about the same thickness, but you can tell right away the wool is much denser. The polyester definitely has a “right” and “wrong” side – the “wrong” side is super scratchy! The wool blend almost feels just as soft on the back as the front. It’s only a tiny bit rougher than the front.

After pulling hard on the corners of each felt sheet.

In the strength department, the wool blend felt wins hands down. I pulled hard on the corners of each of the felt sheets. The polyester felt stretched and thinned. It got fuzzy and I probably could have ripped it if I kept at it. The wool barely stretched at all.

I tried to smooth and stretch both of the felts back into the original shapes. The wool blend obeyed, but the polyester got fuzzier and stayed mostly stretched.

The above photo also shows how thin the polyester felt is. You can see right through it. The wool is nice and dense, which makes all the colors very rich.

wool vs polyester

I’m really looking forward to trying it out! Have you worked with wool felt? What are your thoughts? I’m wonder if it will wear my scissors down fast than the acrylic and polyester felts do. I should finish the city page tomorrow, then I’ll get to move on to the wool camping page! (For progress photos of my pages, join the Facebook page or follow me on Instagram at username iolstephanie.)

Toddler iPad App Review – Toca Store

We will be reviewing the many iPad apps Jax has been trying out recently. The iPad is great for car rides and waiting in restaurants. I stick mostly to educational and pretend-play when choosing apps for him.

Toca Store by Toca Boca is a free-play app that is a great introduction to money and commerce. What little kid doesn’t like to play store at some point? Toca Store gives you everything you need to open shop with the cute and colorful graphics we’ve come to expect from their apps.


When you enter the “store” you find empty baskets ready to be filled with goods to sell. Click on each basket to choose from 3 dozen colorful items from fruits and veggies to toothbrushes and toy robots. When all the baskets are filled, the shop is open for business!

None of the items in the store catalog have prices, so you are free to assign a price ranging from 1 to 5 coins. The “customer” (often Jax will play both roles, saying, “Store! Buy it!”) places their desired item on the counter and the “shopkeeper” puts in the number of coins it costs. You start out with 10 coins in your purse and each round of shopping continues until you run out. If you try to buy something and don’t have enough coins left, a silly winking coin purse will give you 5 more.


Once the payment is placed in the till, you press the sale button to complete the transaction. A cute animated shopping bag starts hopping up and down, and it is time to put your purchase in the bag.

Jax loves this game and plays it solo in addition to us playing it together. What would I change? It is hard to keep track of how many coins are left. You can’t open the purse to check until the price is already locked in and you can’t see your receipt clearly until the end. So often, if I haven’t been paying close attention, we end up over-budget!

This app is one that will grow with Jax as he starts to really comprehend the concepts of money, buying and selling. I’m hoping they keep adding to the cute catalog of items to keep it fresh and exciting!

For a limited time, another app by Toca Boca is free! It’s a silly hair salon that our whole family enjoys! Of course it went free a couple days after I bought it… 😛

Toddler iPad App Reviews & Giveaway – Spinlight Studio

We will be reviewing the many iPad apps Jax has been trying out recently. The iPad is great for car rides and waiting in restaurants. I stick mostly to educational and pretend-play when choosing apps for him.

We are giving away one of each of these iPad apps! See below for details!

We have had AlphaTots and TallyTots on our iPad for quite a while now. I was really excited when I found then because Jax was just starting to get into letters and numbers. When Spinlight Studio contacted me to try their other apps, TableTots and Swapsies, Jax and I were happy to oblige!

Don’t purchase TableTots thinking you are buying an educational game – you’ll be disappointed! Think of it as an educational tool. Imagine buying a bunch of learning placemats and all the shapes, letters, numbers, coins and more that go with them (with the added bonus of no little pieces to clean up!) That’s TableTots!


Jax just turned 2, so some might say he is too young for a teaching tool like this. But he adores letters and numbers and I am teaching him every day while he is so enthusiastic. Because he is so young, I do let him free-play with the app more often than when I quiz him with it. He chooses the board and the pieces, and I’ll ask him to find a letter or count the coins. He loves the dominoes and it has become one of his new favorite words. This app is helping me teach him to count objects and associate quantity with the numbers he has already learned to recognize. Later on we can move on to simple math, spelling and learning about money. But, even just with free-play, he learns so much because the objects all say what they are when he touches them.

What would I change? My biggest gripe is there is no multi-touch. This is an app a parent/teacher and child play together, yet only one of us can move an object on the screen at a time. I also don’t like how the pieces are randomly tossed on top of each board, covering up the writing. It makes it hard for Jax to understand that he should sort objects into their correct places.

It would be nice if there were color names. There is a screen that give you a circle of every color to lay out in a color wheel, but when you touch each one, it just says “Circle!” There is a “peek-a-boo” curtain that can be dragged across the screen that I don’t really understand, but that can be turned off.

I think TableTots would be a great buy for anyone who does preschool learning with their child, whether informally or as a part of home schooling. This is an app that parents and children play together, and it is always great when you can combine learning, technology and time spent with your child!

AlphaTots & TallyTots
AlphaTots is a great interactive alphabet game. I give this app a lot of credit for Jax learning his ABC’s so quickly. What sets it apart from similar apps is that each letter is represented by an action, not an object, so you don’t have the same old “xylophones” and yo-yos”. Instead, you “x-ray” some presents and “yank” on a cord to fill and empty a tub of water.


TallyTots is very similar, but deals with the numbers 1 – 20. Jax has learned all those numbers, though he has trouble counting on his own past 13 just yet. This app has unique activities for each number as well. Jax loves to build sandwiches, feed flies to the frog and look at tiny cupcakes under a magnifying glass.

When you choose a letter, They tell you its name and the sounds it makes, then you are presented with an activity. When you complete the activity, you can move on to the next letter. You can also switch to a different letter by pressing an holding one of the letter tabs until the meter fills up. This is a great feature because it prevents clumsy hands from bumping a tab and switching letters accidentally. It doesn’t stop Jax from navigating the app. He quickly figured out how to do it.

What would I change? Not much – just the stability of both apps. We have very few problems with our iPad 1, but AlphaTots and TallyTots are our number 1 crashes. Jax learned to say “sorry” because they were crashing so often and that is what I’d always say to him. AlphaTots likes to crash most spectacularly: it freezes on the loading screen for a minute or two, then the whole iPad reboots. Yikes! The frequency of crashes tends to change whenever they update the apps, and it seems like it is happening a lot less often right now.

Crashing troubles aside, I would definitely recommend these apps for toddlers! With so many activities per app, Jax never gets bored. He picked up on his letters and numbers so quickly and takes pride in getting them correct. I think Jax’s favorite feature of both games are the songs. He loves to hum along and dance around.


I’d seen Swapsies in the iTunes App Store before but had passed it over. I just didn’t think Jax would be that into it. And, so far, he isn’t. We have a sticker book game with a page of both boy and girl dolls that he enjoys dressing – especially putting glasses on them! This app is different. It isn’t free-play, but matching. I think it’s a great idea, but Jax hasn’t really latched on to it yet.

You have your choice of a few boys and girls and buttons for three items of clothing: hats, tops, and bottoms. The clothes are all typical “what I want to be when I grow up” outfits. Police officer, astronaut, train engineer, etc… While gender neutral, they all tend to be masculine.

To play, you drag an item to the boy or girl and if you complete the outfit, a little button appears to play a reward sound. Jax thinks the sounds are funny, but they haven’t been enough incentive for him to match the outfits himself.

What would I change? The interface is a bit awkward. The clothing choices are presented in three round buttons which make Jax think he should press to choose them, not drag them to the body. This quickly frustrates him and makes him lose interest. I think if there was more of a celebration when a match is made, he might better understand the goal of the game. Perhaps a gallery of all the completed outfits with a word/audio telling what they are. Jax just doesn’t instinctively know what a mail carrier or “rancher” wears.

As with all apps I get that Jax isn’t into, it will stay on the iPad just in case he likes it later. This has happened more often than not! I don’t think we would have bought this one, but it could be fun for a child who is into what they want to be when they grow up.

The graphics on all of Spinlight’s games are cute, crisp and colorful! I love when my son’s favorite games are pretty to look at, in addition to being educational. Their apps are available in both the Apple App Store and the Android Market for Android devices. They are currently on sale for 99 cents each!

Here is a video of Jax playing Alpha and TallyTots, plus a clip of Swapsies:

Would you like to win one of these great apps?

Jax & I have four free app codes to give away (one for each app) to four lucky winners. To enter, leave a comment on this entry. Four random winners will be chosen at noon on Monday, February 13th. Each winner will receive a code good for one of the above apps (my choice, as I only have one of each.) Good luck!

Full Disclosure: We purchased AlphaTots and TallyTots ourselves. Spinlight Studio provided us with free copies of TableTots and Swapsies to review and a copy of each to give away. This review is my own, honest opinion.

If you have a toddler or preschool app you’d like Jax and I to review, please contact me with details. We have an iPad 1 and an iPhone 4.

Toddler iPad App Reviews – Zoo Train

We will be reviewing the many iPad apps Jax has been trying out recently. The iPad is great for car rides and waiting in restaurants. I stick mostly to educational and pretend-play when choosing apps for him.

Zoo Train

Zoo Train is an app by Busy Bee Studios. It has 5 little games in one that are great for preschoolers. It includes: Picture Puzzles, Whistle Music, Train Builder, Word Builder and Track Tycoon.


This was Jax’s first “favorite” app on the iPad. He has impressed so many people, both relatives and strangers, while solving the word puzzles. At first he’d just drag any letter to any spot, but he quickly realized that he needed to match them and started looking for similar shapes. He still gets confused with some letters like “m” and “n” but really does great. He LOVES that the game gives him stickers after he solves three words (you also get stickers every 3 picture and train track puzzles.) He gets so excited and exclaims “Oh! Stickers!!”


The picture puzzles were the first of that style of game he’d done. He was having a hard time with a wooden puzzle he had in real life, but after playing the puzzle game a bit he started to be able to solve it. He didn’t understand the track puzzles for quite a while and would ask me to do it for him so he could see the train go around the completed track. Then one day I looked over and he was solving it like it was no big deal.

Jax enjoys the train building game. You don’t get any rewards for this one, but it is cute. You get to choose a train engine and then 4 cars. All of them have really cute zoo animals. Once your train is built you choose a scene from 4 choices and watch your train drive by. We like to point out things in the scenery that we’ve spelled in the Word Builder, like “cloud” and “ship”.

The section of the app that gets the least use is the musical train whistles. He occasionally goes into it but he isn’t patient enough to let a song play out.

I would definitely recommend this app to other parents of young toddlers. Jax has learned a lot of early literacy skills just from playing these simple, fun games. They have given him a good foundation for learning to recognize  letters and put them into words. The app has also helped with his fine motor skills.

We got this app quite a while ago and I’m pretty sure it was either free or 99 cents at the time. It goes for $1.99 and I think it is a fair price. It includes an iPhone version. I do wish they would add more words to the Word Builder and more Picture Puzzles. Jax can do the puzzles in about 15 seconds each now! I think we’d even pay an extra dollar for an upgrade pack if it were to double our content.

If you have a toddler or preschool app you’d like Jax and I to review, please contact me with details. We have an iPad 1 and an iPhone 4.

Toddler iPad App Reviews – Toca Tea Party

We will be reviewing the many iPad apps Jax has been trying out recently. The iPad is great for car rides and waiting in restaurants. I stick mostly to educational and pretend-play when choosing apps for him.

Toca Tea Party

Toca Tea Party by Toca Boca is not necessarily targeted to toddlers, but Jax had no problem at all figuring out what to do. Sure, some may consider this a game for girls, but I think anyone can enjoy make-believe food!

This is a free-play app which lets kids use their imaginations. You launch the app and are presented with a choice of 3 random tablecloths. You then get to set out your choice of coordinating place settings. Once you have your table set, you choose three baked goods for your tea party.

When the party starts you’ll notice little details like music on the radio (which you can change) and little tea lights you can blow out or light. You can pour lemonade and tea, and if you spill it you can wipe up your mess. The graphics are bright and charming, as are all Toca Boca games.

At the end of the tea party, you wash all the dishes before starting over. I like that you clean up, and this game has helped me practice saying “more please” and “thank you” with Jax.

This app is currently priced at $2.99, though we got it on sale. I think $2 would be a better price, but would pay $3 if I had to. We have already played Toca Tea Party a zillion times, so I’d definitely recommend it!

If you have a toddler or preschool app you’d like Jax and I to review, please contact me with details. We have an iPad 1 and an iPhone 4.

Sunday Souvenir – Richard Scarry

When I visited my dad’s house over the summer, I grabbed some of my childhood books from the basement. One of my favorites as a child was Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever! I have a lot of memories about looking through this book again and again.

After opening it again so many years later, I found it hilarious that it wasn’t really my book: I’d crossed out my brother’s name and written my own in crayon! Hah!

Many of the stories and scenes I remembered, but others I didn’t. A notable one I don’t recall shocked me a bit. It was about a bear who was good at hunting and because of that earned himself a happy family. I couldn’t figure out any other morals to that story. It ends with them wearing coats they made out of a seal he killed. Yikes!

I loved any scene that showed the inside of a house/building/nest. I also liked the pages that would label all kinds of foods, clothes, or toys.

Do you have any books from your childhood? Are you sharing them with your children?

Leave a comment if write a Sunday Souvenir and you’d like your link to be added!
Check out Ronalyn’s post at The Adventures of Esa and Zed

Thrift Store Play Kitchen Makeover

After a weekend of working hard, Jax has his shiny, new custom “retro” play kitchen! I was so lucky to find a wooden kitchen with great “bones” at our local thrift store. It had a lot of water damage, a broken shelf and faucet and a missing door, but the clean, simple lines were perfect. (To see more before pictures, view this post.)

I started the makeover by deciding what I wanted the kitchen to look like. I had already used apple red spray paint when I created Jax’s chalkboard, so I chose that for the main body. His table and chairs are aqua and lime (as well and the shelves I recently put in), so those became the accent colors. I had some leftover glitter paint from a Christmas ornament project, and I knew that would be perfect for hiding any water damage I couldn’t sand out. Here is my color plan.

I started by scrubbing out the dirt and mulch in the cabinets then cleaning, sanding and priming the whole thing. I took the back two pieces off, as well as two knobs, but many screws were stripped on the rest of it. I ended up breaking off the knob discs to paint them separately from the dowels they were attached on. They were glued on crooked anyway, so I was able to fix that too.

I used a wooden J to replace the faucet

I used 2.5 cans of apple red glossy spray paint (and I ended up needing to get a mini can for a little more coverage where the clock had been.) For all the silver parts I used a mini can of silver spray paint, then a coat of silver craft paint and glossy varnish. The knobs got several coats of craft paint and glossy varnish.

I needed to replace the broken faucet, so I bought a large wooden J and attached it with a wood screw and E-6000 glue. Looks perfect! For the backsplash, I bought smaller letters to spell out his name. Those were attached with the E-6000 glue. My husband glued a small chalkboard I’d painted to the side with Gorilla glue.

The shelf was detached when I bought it, and it wasn’t hard to see why… It just had 3 tiny screw holes. A super nice Home Depot employee helped me pick out the right size screws, as well as which L brackets would work best to fortify the shelf. I chose to leave the brackets unpainted to match the rest of the silver.

The counter top got two coats of aqua craft paint, then 10,000 (or so) coats of my favorite glitter paint (which is more of a glue with lots of glitter). The burners were painted black, then got a very thick coat of black glittery paint (and a clear coat.)

I adore it! It looks perfect in the room, and Jax loves it already. I started him off with Melissa & Doug Wooden Pantry Products and the KidKraft Metal Accessories Set which comes with 3 pots/pans, a lid, 2 utensils and some wooden food. I’m really happy with both purchases. I wish the pantry products had labels on both sides, but they are nice, sturdy wood toys. The pots are holding up great so far, and Jax is enjoying the bonus food items: a chicken leg, fried egg, two carrots and two broccoli florets.

This was such a fun project! I’m already looking ahead to the next playroom DIY… a reading nook!


iPad Games for Toddlers

A reader asked if I had suggestions for iPad game that toddlers would enjoy. Here are a few that Jax loves!

For young babies, Look Baby! is great!It has four simple activities: a teddy bear you can tickle, a butterfly that changes color, bubbles you pop and shapes that bounce around. Jax sends himself into a fit of giggle when he “tickles” the teddy bear and it laughs at him!

The graphic designer in me loves Interactive Alphabet. The illustrations are so bright and fun! Ever letter has a fun activity, plus you can sing along to the ABC song and watch a robot dance (the robot, of course!) at the end. Jax adores the train, the hamster hiding under a hat and the zipper. It’s on sale right now, so snap this one up!

The first game he fell in love with was Peekaboo Pets. We got it when it was free – it now costs $1.99. It would have been money well spent. Jax learned many animal sounds from pushing the buttons and popping the animals out. He calls the iad “Baa” because of the sheep in that game. He also learned to use one finger to push the button after starting out smacking it with his whole hand.

A more recent purchase was Nighty Night. Jax was enchanted by this half ebook/half game as soon as the narrator started to speak. The graphics are beautiful and the animations and sounds are cute. You can interact with all the farm house animals, then put the light switches to put them to bed. Jax used to just wave “night night” to them, but now he clicks off the lights and is so proud of himself! He loves the fish pond because the fish make silly faces and sounds.

I also recommend all of Sandra Boyton’s ebooks: The Going to Bed Book, Moo, Baa, La La La! and Blue Hat, Green Hat. It’s fun to be able to read those books when we are away from home. Plus, they all have fun interactive elements.

We most recently got Pat the Bunny. It is adorable! You can record your own auto, which I did on the iPad, and if you have a camera (like I do on my iPhone) your baby can see himself in the “mirror”. Every page has a different activity. Jax’s favorites are the nesting dolls, the velcro shoes and the kitchen band.

Hope these suggestions help!